Showing posts with label 1948. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1948. Show all posts

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Bicycle Thieves

One of, if not the defining masterpieces of Italian neorealism, Ladri di biciclette (Bicycle Theives) is the first film I’ve seen in the post war sub genre which emerged from a country on its knees in the wake of a brutal Fascist regime. If there are other films in the movement that are half as good as this one, it won’t be my last dip into the genre. Vittorio De Sica’s film is set on the streets of Rome in 1948. With work scarce and hunger raging, a man tries desperately to secure work in an unfavourable job market. He manages to secure a job with adequate pay as someone who puts up film posters but when a thief steals his bike, something he needs for the job, his family are left penniless and he has to wander the streets, searching for his bike amongst a city of millions.

De Sica used ordinary people in the acting roles but it’s difficult to tell that from the performances. Lead actor Lamberto Maggiorani is superb as the man at his wits end following the crime and his miniature adult son, Enzo Staiola comes close to stealing the whole movie. The situation the family find themselves in makes for compelling viewing and the themes and imagery thrown up by the movie add to its impressive overall effect. I wasn’t surprised to read that in Sight & Sound’s first ‘greatest films of all time’ poll in 1952, Bicycle Thieves was ranked at number one. The most recent poll in 2012 ranked it at number 33 all time and my own algorithmic study ranked it at 35.

Saturday, 13 October 2012


Based on one of William Shakespeare’s most famous plays, 1948’s Hamlet was Directed by and starred Laurence Olivier. The film became somewhat of a Marmite film, winning four Oscars including Best Picture but being criticized by some for leaving out vital aspects and characters from Shakespeare’s text. I had never seen a production of Hamlet until today but despite being forced to read Shakespeare at school in the most uninspiring ways possible, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the several plays I’ve seen as an adult. I am in no way an expert on the bard but what I’ve seen, I’ve loved. It’s with a heavy heart then that I have to report that I did not enjoy Olivier’s interpretation of Hamlet and found it to be one of the dullest movie watching experiences of my year so far.

I’d class Hamlet as a good film which I did not enjoy, much as The Expendables is a bad film which I did enjoy. One of the difficulties when one is watching a Shakespeare play or film is the language barrier. Written in four hundred year old English, the words and phrases are very different to my modern mother tongue and it can be difficult to extract the meaning from the text. I’ve never really struggled before with the likes of Richard III, Romeo and Juliet, Coriolanus and Much Ado About Nothing but here much of the language washed over me. I think this was because of two things. Firstly I wasn’t interested and secondly the actor’s voices reverberated around the sound stage causing echoes which bumped into the following words.

Sunday, 26 August 2012


In a New York City apartment a faint scream can be heard as two friends’ murder a third before concealing his body inside a large wooden chest placed prominently inside their living room. The crime is committed moments before people who know the dead man arrive for a party. Lead conspirator Brandon Shaw (John Dall) commits the murder as an intellectual exercise in order to prove his superiority over the dead man and other party guests. Fellow conspirator Phillip Morgan (Farley Granger) is less confident about the crime and much more conscious of having a dead body in his midst. Amongst the party guests are the dead man, David’s parents, girlfriend, ex-classmate and all four friend’s ex-prep school housemaster Rupert Cadell (James Stewart) of whom Brandon is most wary of being able to discover the body. 

The film comes off like a play and is indeed based on a play from the 1920s. The entire plot takes place inside one apartment set and mostly within one room of that apartment. Although characters move about the setting I don’t think the camera ever leaves the living room. Adding to the sense of being a play is the editing. The film is shot as though one long, continuous take though is actually broken up into ten separate takes with each cut being masked by a man’s jacket moving across the screen or the back of some furniture. This allowed the director, Alfred Hitchcock the chance to cut scenes and change the magnificent backdrop which indicates the passing of the day.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

The Red Shoes

"Why do you want to dance?"
"Why do you want to live?"

A young amateur ballerina called Victoria Page (Moira Shearer) meets famed ballet producer Boris Lermontov (Anton Walbrook) at a ballet after party, impressing him enough to invite her to join his company. At breakfast the next morning Lermontov also meets an inspiring young composer by the name of Julian Craster (Marius Goring) and he too is invited to join the company. The two talented youngsters begin to work their way up through the company ranks as a romance blossoms between them. There are tough decisions to be made however when it comes to a choice between ambition and love.

I bought The Red Shoes of Blu-Ray about three or four years ago after hearing Martin Scorsese say it was one of his favourite films. Now I’ve finally seen it I can see why someone would enjoy it on an artistic and technical level but it left me feeling very bored.